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Flames engulf St. Jean Baptiste Church in Morinville, Alberta, June 30, 2021, in this still image taken form video obtained from social media. CNS photo/Diane Burrel, social media via Reuters

Church fires, vandalism condemned

  • July 6, 2021

The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) has condemned the rash of church fires and vandalism that has taken place across Canada, particularly in the west, since the discovery of graves at former residential schools.

A number of churches in British Columbia and Alberta have burned to the ground, others have been damaged by fire and still more have been vandalized in the weeks following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops in late May and subsequent discoveries at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and another school in Cranbrook, B.C. Ten churches were vandalized on Canada Day alone in Alberta. Orange paint was smattered on doors and other exterior features.

“We stand with the victims of the residential school program and seek healing and reconciliation,” stated the CCRL in a Canada Day statement that came on the heels of a June 22 statement that condemned the first church burnings. “Violence and property destruction does not answer these needs.”

On June 26, Chopaka Catholic Church and St. Ann’s Catholic Church were destroyed by suspected arson in B.C.  Alberta’s Siksika Nation’s Holy Trinity Church was set on fire on June 28 — the flames were extinguished and no structural damage apparent. On June 30, St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alta., was burned to the ground and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church north of Halifax was set ablaze.

Acts of vandalism were also reported at Holy Rosary Church in Edmonton and St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon as parts of the exterior at both institutions were smeared with red handprints to symbolize the Indigenous children who suffered at Catholic-operated residential schools for many decades.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — one of the most outspoken commentators against cancelling or tearing down historical/religious statues — tweeted on July 1 that “the vandalism of churches across Alberta is appalling.” Kenney particularly spotlighted African Evangelical Church in Calgary.

“The congregation is made up entirely of new Canadians, many of whom came here as refugees fleeing countries where churches are often vandalized and burned down,” wrote Kenney. “These folks came to Canada with the hope that they could practise their faith peacefully. Some of them are traumatized by such attacks. This is where hatred based on collective guilt for historic injustices leads us. Let’s seek unity, respect and reconciliation instead.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the anger Canadians feel towards the federal government and Catholic Church is “real and it is fully understandable given the shameful history we have all become more aware of.”

However, he condemned the church vandalism saying he “can’t help but think that burning down churches is actually depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning from places where they can grieve and reflect and look for support.”

In light of the rash of incidents in Calgary, police have stepped up patrols around several churches and are working with the Diocese of Calgary to assess security and prevention arrangements. One potential safeguard being discussed at multiple Alberta churches is having individual parishioners take turns keeping watch.

The CCRL is working on a database to collect incidents of vandalism against Catholic churches.

“The CCRL has been working on a searchable database of acts of vandalism against Catholic churches in Canada, with a launch date forthcoming.  We pray that more entries can be avoided.”

Anger was also directed at the monarchy as statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria were toppled on Canada Day in Winnipeg. Residential schools operated during the tenures of the United Kingdom’s two longest-reigning monarchs.

Comments (1)

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Investigate the fires AFTER the 5,000-20,000 murdered children (those recovered and the bodies still awaiting recovery) have been identified, their families given answers, the surviving nuns and priests who raped and murdered children arrested...

Investigate the fires AFTER the 5,000-20,000 murdered children (those recovered and the bodies still awaiting recovery) have been identified, their families given answers, the surviving nuns and priests who raped and murdered children arrested and convicted, and churches pays them financial compensation.

The families have waited DECADES for answers. The churches can wait a year or two for a fire investigation.

If you claim or "think" that property damage is a worse crime than mass murder, you have justified every fire, broken window, and bucket of paint thrown.

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A Smith
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